- Paul George played out of his mind in the Thunder's Game 1 win against Utah, and he did it with a new nickname. The Open Floor podcast reckons with the arrival of Playoff P.
Paul George is a man of many monikers, and the start of the NBA playoffs came with yet another nickname. The arrival of Playoff P was met with confusion from NBA fans and jokes from Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. The Open Floor podcast provides their own reaction to George's banner game and his new name.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: I've got to hand it to Paul George. This was a brilliant rebrand. Last year he comes in with the "Loose-lips Paul" moniker that I give him. Granted, not the world's best nickname, but it was accurate in terms of how he was comporting himself. And this year he came back with "Playoff P," which is an even worse nickname, but it's even funnier. And he lived up to it.
The comparisons, the what-abouts were coming if Paul George hadn't played well and if Oklahoma City had lost that Game 1, because Indiana has looked sensation. I mean, Victor Oladipo turns in an amazing performance, gives some great podium material, talking about Dan Gilbert counting him out and saying how he doesn't care about what the national media thinks. Oladipo was playing every card that he possibly could, right? And then Paul George responded, and give him credit for that. He played a great Game 1.
Andrew Sharp: It's a great point. The Hoosiers were ready to come for him, even if he had like 20 points in a close Thunder win he would have been hearing from the Gregg Doyle's of the world. But Playoff P, man, you called it. On our podcast before the playoffs, buried somewhere in that 90-minute rambling session of a preview, you predicted that Paul George was going to be the interview to watch throughout these playoffs, and you were 100% right. Dropping the Playoff P nickname on the eve of the Thunder's Game 1, and then I love Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony immediately making fun of him for that nickname afterward.
But, as far as OKC being built for the playoffs, this is something that I've been saying on and off for the last six months. They're going to be much tougher in a playoff series that they were throughout some of the random nights during the regular season. However, I also just can't believe watching 48 minutes of Carmelo; he is so washed up and so much slower than he was even like a year ago. I'm reluctant to say that the OKC foundation is totally sound, but it's a fact that any game Paul George goes off for 35-plus, OKC becomes elite.
Golliver: Their dynamic is so funny. Carmelo, who as you said, is years beyond being a productive player. So you've you got him and you've got Westbrook, who is wearing sunglasses, a sports jack and no shirt, giggling on the podium about how Paul George is a nerd for giving himself a bad nickname. What is this? This is your jury over here? Glad you guys weighed in. I thought the underrated Playoff P moment were his bars for Joe Ingles. I don't know if you say that. He goes, "My defensive strategy on Joe Ingles is to just pressure him. It's very, very unlikely he'll beat me off the dribble." I mean, nice, subtle shade. If I was a Jazz fan, I'd be so angry and livid. I'd really be rallying around that comment. In terms of on the court stuff, tho...
Sharp: You know what I did see on the court with him? And cover your ears, Elizabeth. He said 'b---h ass'. He called Joe Ingles a 'b---h ass. I forget how it went, but they were talking on the court as well.
Golliver: Look, it's Playoff P for Playoff Profanity. Can I give a real take for one season? In terms of real p-p-p-playoff analysis here. I would like to say that OKC has always looked great when Paul George is hitting. Paul George doesn't always hit, right? So within the seven-game series I think overreacting to him having basically his best game in three months, that's a sign of caution.
For Utah, there was some rough moments for them offensively. That was kind of to be expected, but I don't think Oklahoma City's going to be functioning over the course of the series, so I'm not really ready to count the Jazz out totally. But I do think they looked very similar on paper entering the series, and then Oklahoma City's talent showed up. Those two top guys are both very, very good, and I think that's going to be the question: How consistently can George and Westbrook play like they did in Game 1? This season has been anything but that. So if Paul George has somehow magically turned a leaf and he's going to bring this every single night then I don't think the Jazz stand a chance, but I'm just dubious he's going to be able to do that.
Sharp: The one thing I will say about George—in addition to his 8–for–11 from three, which obviously isn't sustainable—I really liked him guarding Joe Ingles, and beyond the trash talk I thought that was an interesting move and a lot of people were calling for him to guard Donovan Mitchell. But if you look at the Jazz season, so much of it turned when Joe Ingles started to hit from everywhere and just became the Otto Porter of Utah and was really valuable for them.
Taking him out of the picture—I think he was like 1–of–5 with Paul George guarding him—really kind of screws with Utah's whole system and it forced Ricky Rubio to take on an increased burden. That did not go well. Donovan Mitchell had to do more and he did really well, but that wasn't enough. I think that is something to watch, because if Ingles isn't going to be a factor in the series... there's no way that they win this series with no Joe Ingles.
Golliver: To me it's a smart strategy because you can always use Paul George if Mitchell is lighting you up for 35 or 40, right? You can always make that adjustment, but if you can throw that wrench into them early, make life more difficult for guys who are reliant on others to set them up—and Ingles is one of their primary facilitators—it makes all the sense in the world. Also, guarding Mitchell through screens and all that stuff, that is arguably more tiresome than guarding Ingles from Paul George's standpoint.
It's smart to conserve him. If you had him and Roberson they could basically alternate those guys, but since they don't it makes sense to kind of use Paul George that way. But I'm sure he's going to get plenty of time on Mitchell as the series continues, especially if Utah tries to counter by telling Donovan Mitchell, 'Just go nuts, you're our best shot here.'
Sharp: We'll see. Still a lot of series left, don't want to give it to OKC too quickly, but it was certainly an impressive night for Playoff P.